NCGA Week in Review

October 27, 2017

Pardon Our Dust

We recently launched this new site and are still in the process of updating some of our archived content. Some details of this article may be incomplete, links may be broken, and other elements may not display properly yet. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

This week, a House committee continued to examine the presence of GenX, andother contaminants, in the Cape Fear River. Meanwhile, RepresentativeWilliam Brisson announced that he would be switching party affiliation, athree-judge federal panel appointed a Special Master to examine the GeneralAssembly’s legislative redistricting plan, and the Senate appointed acommittee that will examine judicial redistricting.

River Quality Committee Discusses GenX

On Thursday, the House Select Committee on NC River Quality met for asecond time to hear informative presentations on the presence of GenX, anunregulated chemical compound that is a byproduct of chemicals manufacturedat the Chemours Fayetteville Works site, in the Cape Fear River. The Houseand Senate have both appointed select committees to review and respond toGenX; the Senate committee met earlier this month.

First, the committee heard from Dr. Detlef Knappe, an engineering professorat NC State University, whopresentedto the committee on his study of contaminants in the Cape Fear River basin.The River is the largest watershed in NC and supplies approximately 1.5million people with drinking water. Dr. Knappe focused on Bromide,1,4-Dioxane, and Per-Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS), which heidentified as “contaminants of concern.” According to his presentation,these chemicals are the “tip of the iceberg” of the universe of chemicals:roughly 200 chemicals have been tested for health effects while anotherapproximately 80,000 chemical substances are registered for use in the USand roughly 700 new chemicals are added each year.

The committee then heard updates from the Department of EnvironmentalQuality (DEQ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), bothDepartments addressed the committeelast month. Sheila Holman, DEQ Assistant Secretary for Environment,informedthe committee on efforts by the Divisions of Water Resources, WasteManagement and Air Quality, includes ongoing sampling of groundwater,private wells, surface water and the river. DHHS State Health Director Dr.Elizabeth Tilsonupdatedthe committee on DHHS’ efforts, which includes continued work to examinethe human health risks of exposure to GenX, which currently remain unknown.Next, State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore reviewed astudyto the committee that examined the rates of five types of cancers inBladen, Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender Counties over a twenty-yeartimeline. Dr. Moore stated that there are no substantial differencesbetween the four counties and the rest of the state in that time period.

Additionally, the committee received an update from the Cape Fear PublicUtility Authority (CFPUA), which was appropriated funds to respond to GenXafter the legislature overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto ofHB 56: Amend Environmental Lawsearlier this month. CFPUA Executive Director Jim Fletchnerupdatedthe committee on the response measures underway, which includes watersupply monitoring and evaluating water treatment alternatives for removingPFAS, GenX and other emerging compounds from the water supply.

Finally, Cape Fear River Keeper Kemp Burdette spoke to the committee,expressing his connection to the river and his fear of the unknownregarding the health effects of exposure to emerging contaminants.

Party Affiliation Change Increases GOP Advantage in House

On Wednesday Rep. William Brisson, who represents parts of Bladen, Sampsonand Johnston counties, announced that he will be changing his partyaffiliation and will run as a Republican for his seventh term in 2018.

In aninterviewwith WECT-TV, Rep. Brisson said that he has always been a conservativeDemocrat and hopes to better serve his rural constituents as a Republican.

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland)welcomedRep. Brisson to the House GOP Caucus, saying he is “a steadfast voice forthe priorities of his people.” In astatement, NC Democratic Party Chair Wayne Goodwin called Rep. Brisson an “honestpublic servant, but one who rarely caucuses with Democrats and votes morethan nine time out of ten with the Republican majority.”

Senate to Take On Judicial Reform

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) appointed membersto a new Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting onTuesday. In astatement, Sen. Berger said that the committee “will carefully consider all optionson how we select judges including the House’s judicial redistricting bill,merit selection models, retention election, and, if we maintain a system ofelections, their frequency and partisan structure.” Thecommitteewill be chaired by Sens. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Warren Daniel(R-Burke) and Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick).

Special Master Appointed in Legislative Redistricting Case

Since the legislatureapprovednew legislative maps in August, the three-judge federal panel thatinitially ordered redistricting has been weighing the constitutionality ofthe House and Senate plans.

Yesterday, andorderwas filed by the panel to appoint a Special Master to look at ninelegislative districts that the judges are concerned “either fail to remedythe identified constitutional violation or are otherwise legallyunacceptable.” Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Stanford Universitywho has worked as a Special Master or court-appointed redistricting expertin five states and Puerto Rico, will work with the panel to remedy anyproblems with the current plans, which may include redrawing NC’slegislative maps. An official ruling on the case is expected soon.

The districts in question are House Districts 21, which includes portionsof Duplin, Sampson and Wayne Counties, 36, 37,40 and 41 In Wake County, 57in Guilford County and 105 in Mecklenburg, as well as Senate Districts 21,which includes portions of Cumberland County as well as Hoke County and 28in Guilford County.

In a jointstatement, House and Senate elections committee chairs Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett)and Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) said that they believe the order will bereversed and that “the order provides absolutely no legal or factual basisfor objecting to the new maps, while also potentially delegating thelegislature’s constitutional authority to draw districts to a loneprofessor in California.”

A Look Ahead to Next Week

Next week, the following legislative and executive branch meetings will beheld:

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

11:30 AM Bi-Annual Planning and Work Session of the NC State Board ofEducation

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

9:00 AM Bi-Annual Planning and Work Session of the NC State Board ofEducation
10:00 AM Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform
11:30 AM Monthly Meeting of the NC Board of Transportation
1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance

Thursday, November 2, 2017

9:00 AM Monthly Meeting of the NC State Board of Education
1:00 PM Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global EngagementOversight Committee